Starting e-commerce business.. Its a chakravyuh..

Imagine you are in internet marketing business, help others (read more than 50 companies) to achieve the best customers through their site with a great (fabulous) ROI and  a cool set of search engine rankings which delivers them 100s of visitors. Plus to add more sprinkles on this by imagine that you are specially working in retail online business (read clothing, toys and fashion) in US and UK market and saw the tides of e-commerce business is coming to India. You saw the rise of flipkart and thinking that you have chance to start up a successful e-business business by reading a daily dose of popping up articles related to growth of e-commerce businesses in india by enormous sites. You just thought that you find the niche which has a great potential of indian market and now what you need is couple of manufacturer or stockist who are ready to stock for you and set of good people who deliver the product to customer. thats it and you are done .. just start the business..yes and here you go.

Yes its my story. I am able to convince my two other partners that we are now ready to go with e-commerce business as we found our niche (kurtis).. and we found the supplier which are ready to take and manage the stock for us. (wow its great). So what we think, we have to do is only

  1. negotiate the terms and conditions with stockist
  2. buy a domain
  3. choose which cms we are going to use
  4. designing a website
  5. configure the products
  6. buy payment gateway
  7. delivery setup aka courier services
  8. provide a support to customer
  9. and market it on various online platforms.

How is this sound.. cool na…
I somehow know that there is more than these stuff and I forget so many things. but who cares at the time of starting with josh, we will see when it comes. Yes i read the lot of articles about how e-commerce companies are working, what they need to take care about and what exactly they need. Its a lots of think to read. But somehow i am not sure that who is ready for giving us a product to sell and do someone believe us in this era of bloody competition.

I  discussed all the way i think with families, friends and the ones who knows and are in traditional business of Kurtis. The clothing background of my family is backing me but somehow i need someone to explain my ideas. We talked with one of the uncle of my partner and to my surprise extent he is ready to stock for us.  how he provide the, images of products and all that and what percentage of the profit we take. Even he ready to ship for us.  All went good as stockist is witnessed the Indian e-commerce growth and ready to give us a chance.

Lesson Learnt : Until you talk to someone, no one is free to listen.  And if your friends and family are not supporting you then you have to find something more interesting which they like and ready to listen. 

So, we bought a domain. after a lot of hassle and discussion we choose the cms. we bought a theme and i thought it will start as soon as i upload the product and details and we integrate the business with payment gateway and we will done. But no we are at the bhul bhulaiya. I think catalogs of products will do. We need to write the product details from the product photos  and my team is able to do that.  There  is a part of work my designer have to do. but somehow we are able to produce which are going to work on site.

Lesson Learnt : If you don’t know what to choose, go with the public way they say what they like. Make a Jugaad indians are good at it.  

I don’t know we need to have shop establishment certificate for payment gateway approval and need to  see what are the features, I am in talk with 3  payment gateways that time..we finalized one which is new and tell me to give the best services.  So it took me more than 21 days to take  shop establishment and more 15 days to take payment gateway. Imagine an eCommerce site without payment gateway for this 21 days.

Lesson Learnt : Wake up from dream, you are not in silicon valley, you are starting business in india. 

We decide not go for cash on delivery as we are not in position to tie of with any shipping company. Most of the well known and good shipping companies are not picking up the products from my city. And some of the shipping companies didn’t reply to me. And the poor things about their support team and web site management is they don’t have correct phone numbers on it to whom to contact. for few them we are too small that we are  not in position to sign any deals with them with monthly commitment.

We spent around 20K till now, and looking for starting the things.

Lesson Learnt : The other arms of e-commerce in india are is not ready as they are looking. A lot more things are obscure in the way.

Lesson Learnt : Spend each paisa wisely, so once if you fail your partners – investors, they don’t blame you for wasting it.

During this chaos in my mind we launched site, uploaded the products and waiting for first sale to happen.

We started with on an average 40 visitors per day, and one fine morning after a month we hit with the first sale.  Remember that we are not keeping any inventory as the stockist is agreed to stock for us. And the reality  is yet to begin. Yes you guessed it right, we don’t have that size available with us which is ordered by customer.

 Lesson learnt : Inventory is what matter the most in e-commerce.  you need to learn that you cant rely on stockist or manufacturer to send you the product when someone ordered from your site.

Since that incident happen, we talked to our stockist and ask him to give us a product which we can stock and ship by our selves. So again a round of meetings and we are manage to get the products on our side. And we also manage to invest a small amount in products which are solely available to sell on my site.  In meanwhile we talked with a another kurti manufacturer which is ready to give us a good number of products on very small set of deposits.

Lesson learnt : You have to dive, no matter how cold the water is. And before you dive, you have to confidence in your swimming capacity. Cause you cant dive on the tubes. 

Success is still far away and real game is just begin. I know  that I need to provide my customer a convenient way to buy a product which he can buy from local market. Plus by doing this whole thing i developed a clear vision for my business that I want to be a niche king. I want my site a leader in that niche. Though I have though that there are so many products i need to sale with the Kurtis. but I decide to work only on my niche.  But I am facing more war within my self, partners and customers.   lots of thoughts are coming with the solo product e-commerce start up as things and experience are going with a solo product eCommerce start up is not good. But I know its a enough market room in this niche to become a small vertical.

Now at the time I published article we started off very well, able to get a sale / day and  learnt some hard lessons, which i think I will never learn without this initiative.


My thoughts exactly. Thanks for penning it down. 🙂

semil says:

Thanks Ashay for reading. I am much obliged.

Let me know if we can be any help for you. Feel Free to ask

We are running a digital marketing agency, too. If you need any kind of guidance in that field.

thanks again.

Kaushal Shah says:

Semil, Very well written post. This is the exact scenario we faced when we started with a clothing niche. I think we are ready, and consumers are also ready for ecommerce, but we don’t have support services ready; e.g. courier services asked for Rs. 250 for COD. I can’t put that burden on my consumers, when they are buying Rs. 400 – Rs. 500 product.

I think the ground reality is what you have mentioned here.

semil says:

Thanks, Kaushal For your generous comment.

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